An open mind and an open heart
In spite of what shows like Grey’s Anatomy might lead you to believe, careers in healthcare are not often glamorous.
It takes a special kind of person to withstand the long hours and emotional toil that jobs in healthcare often require. A strong stomach and extreme attention to detail are necessary, too.
That kind of grind doesn’t deter Deborah Mullner – a 24 year-old registered nurse at Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia, SC – from pursuing her dream of healing people.
Deborah works 12-hour day shifts at the hospital, serving as an orthopedic nurse. She’s on her feet all day, admitting and discharging patients and handling medications and assessments. When she’s not working at the hospital, she teaches barre at local studio a few days a week as a side job.
It’s a busy schedule, but Deborah is no stranger to hard work. Ever since college, she’s been working to get here: the intersection of fulfilling her passion and making a positive difference in the world.
Deborah’s dreams of a career as a nurse began at age 15, when her younger sister became very sick and was admitted to the hospital for over a month.
“She was presenting atypically, so her symptoms didn’t point to any certain diagnosis,” Deborah said. “It seemed like she was sick with multiple viruses.”
Deborah added that eventually, some of her sister’s doctors were able to notice a trend and trace it to an autoimmune vascular disease. This enabled her sister to receive proper treatment, which saved her life.
“It was these doctors that lit a spark inside of me to consider healthcare as an occupation,” Deborah said. “But I had to decide: I really did not want to immediately aim for being a doctor. I wanted to be like the nurses: assisting the doctors, calming the patient, carrying out the orders, staying by the patient’s side all day. I wanted to be the nurse that was there with the patient and family during the anxious time of waiting.”
Deborah attended the University of South Carolina – Aiken to pursue her B.S. in Nursing. She loved being in the learning environment, but said that she found some elements of the college experience to be intimidating to an introvert.
“I thrive when I’m in my own world, but I had to quickly learn to climb out of my shell and discover new strengths and almost another side of my personality I never knew,” she said. “We were sent to hospitals to train, and I learned to think outside of myself and focus on other humans. By graduation, I was so much more confident than I’d ever been.”
Always a go-getter, Deborah was able to put the skills she learned into practice while she was still enrolled at USC Aiken. She and her fellow nursing students were sent to hospitals to train; Deborah also gained experience by working with a differently-abled young man in a home health setting, and by working at a physical therapy clinic (where she met her now-husband, Jordan!).
A residency? For nurses?
Multiple hospitals and healthcare systems visit USC Aiken to recruit future nurses.
On one such visit, Deborah was intrigued by the vendors’ offerings of nurse residencies.
“I hadn’t even heard of a residency for nurses,” she said. “‘Doesn’t that only exist for doctors?’ They all sounded great – you get paid while you get trained!”
Deborah selected Columbia’s residency, provided by the Palmetto Group health system.
“I applied in my last month of nursing school and went through a series of interviews before I was hired. That residency led to my current job, hired as an orthopedic nurse for one of Palmetto Health’s hospitals: Baptist.”
Deborah remarked that she learned a lot from the series of interviews required for her residency at the hospital, including the one she underwent to transition to a full-time position when her 17-week residency was completed.
“While I was nervous, I learned something new about myself: I was able to think on my feet,” Deborah explained. “And I learned something valuable for any future interviews I take: I learned to change my mindset. I learned that it’s not just a spotlight for you, the interviewee. I learned that you’re not in trouble, no one’s judging, and no one’s laughing. I learned that you’re not a child. When you’re being interviewed for a job, you must also interview them. I learned to ask questions, to sit up tall, to keep an even tone, and to basically have the mindset: ‘Why should I work for you?'”
Worth the hard work…and the commute
Deborah stayed in Aiken after her graduation; she had already built a life there and loved the community. Unfortunately, her commute to Columbia for work – which spans about an hour and a half – isn’t very fun.
“I will honestly say that no matter how hard the nursing profession is, the commute is way worse!” Deborah laughed.
While Deborah’s residency allowed her to explore different nursing specialties throughout the hospital, she now focuses on caring for orthopedic and neurosurgery patients. She loves working in this unit.
“We take care of patients with an age range of 18 – 90 years old…some even older! We take care of orthopedic and neurosurgery patients. We are sending patients to surgery, and we are taking care of recovering surgery patients.”
Deborah added that her specific nursing specialty requires a lot more physical labor than most nursing jobs.
“Our patients must be lifted, maneuvered, and turned. There is equipment you must lift, too.”
So it’s a good thing that Deborah stays in shape outside of the hospital as a barre instructor. She’s been doing barre workouts ever since she was 12 and describes it as one of her favorite ways to de-stress. You can also find Deborah playing tennis, swimming, walking, playing piano, or writing creatively.
Envisioning her future
Deborah’s life is about to get a whole lot busier: she and her husband are expecting their first child!
Deborah is ecstatic about starting her family, and she eagerly looks forward to seeing where her passion for nursing will lead her, too.
“I want to experience different aspects of nursing care and apply for new positions,” she said. “I love learning, and I might eventually go back to school to earn a graduate nursing degree. I love teaching new nursing students. That might be something I could pursue in the distant future.”
Throughout all her career experiences so far, one of the most important things Deborah has learned is the power of visualization. Picturing her future – imagining herself achieving her goals – has helped spur Deborah on to the place where she is now.
“It has really helped me,” she said. “If you can see yourself doing it, then you can do it. The mind is a very powerful thing. Life will take you so many places, but God will show you where you are supposed to be. You just have to keep your mind open!”